Here at Metal Hammer we’re all about celebrating bands’ finest hours and the landmark releases that define our genre. But not every album is a masterpiece, and few bands can claim a pristine catalogue, with some opuses bringing more condemnation than others.
But have we been too unfair in previous judgements? While we’re not claiming that any of the following albums are the artists’ finest works, we feel that if you strip away the history and controversy surrounding them, you may be pleasantly surprised when you give them a second chance.
Metallica – St Anger
Metallica’s eighth album is held by many to be the most disappointing metal album of the 21st century (until Lulu came along) due to its serrated edges, bloated songs, lack of guitar solos and a snare drum that sounds like an empty tin of Miniature Heroes. But on the back of the band’s most tumultuous period, awkwardly captured on the Some Kind Of Monster film, the tension, frustration and drama that unfolded behind the scenes courses through St Anger’s veins, rearing its ugly head through every frenzied barrage and guttural riff. No, it’ll never be Master Of Puppets II, but over a decade on maybe it’s time for you to reassess this most scorned of albums.
Iron Maiden – The X Factor
History hasn’t been kind to Iron Maiden’s Blaze Bayley years, especially since Bruce Dickinson’s return has seen the band go from strength to strength. However, Blaze’s first outing with the Irons produced a number of underrated gems, with the epic Sign Of The Cross and strident Lord Of The Flies still getting outings after Bruce rejoined.
Machine Head – The Burning Red
Was it the music, Robb Flynn rapping or the spiky hair and red tracksuits that caused such outrage back in 1999? Whatever you think of the latter, the fact that several of this album’s tracks went down a storm on Machine Head’s ‘An Evening With’ shows that The Burning Red still holds its own among their formidable discography.
Trivium – The Crusade
Coming on the heels of the breakthrough success of Ascendancy, Trivium almost completely derailed with this jumbled follow-up that saw frontman Matt Heafy abandoning his commanding roar. However, sift through the muddy waters and you’ll find some heavyweight anthems in the form of Tread The Floods, Entrance Of The Conflagration, Detonation and even ballad This World Can’t Tear Us Apart.
Architects – The Here And Now
Such was the drastic departure and disappointment of the successor to the thunderous juggernaut of Hollow Crown, that both fans and Architects themselves have all but disowned it. Though lacking the tech metal crunch they’ve now made their own, as a standalone record The Here And Now still possesses merit, from the melodic hardcore bounce of Day In, Day Out and Delete, Rewind to the poignant honesty of An Open Letter To Myself. Maybe skip the maligned ballad Heartburn, though?
Killswitch Engage – Killswitch Engage
Killswitch Engage’s second eponymous album always had a tough job following the band’s flawless run of records from their debut onwards. Their darkest effort to date, the undercurrent of melancholy culminates in the final one-two of Lost and This Is Goodbye, crowning an unsung opus that still towers over the majority of metalcore bands you care to mention.
Paradise Lost – One Second
File next to Slayer go nu metal, Korn go dubstep and Kiss go disco/prog/no make up; Paradise Lost’s decision to delve into synth-pop was met with shock and outrage when it dropped in 1997. However, even though they’ve since come full circle back to their doomy roots, One Second still sounds pivotal, while likes of Say Just Words and the title track are still mainstays of their live set.
Black Sabbath – Born Again
Any Black Sabbath album that doesn’t feature Ozzy or Dio tends to be dismissed out of hand, despite some great efforts in the late ‘80s with Tony Martin at the helm. Born Again’s dreadful cover and the Stonehenge incident that would go down in rock legend thanks to Spinal Tap ensured it’s one of the most ridiculed. But musically, the more gothic approach of Trashed and Zero The Hero have helped the album date well from its inauspicious beginnings.
Fear Factory – Archetype
Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares-less years have been roundly overlooked since Burton C Bell reunited with his friend, but while Transgression was patchy at best, its predecessor was a muscular assault filled with some of the industrial metal band’s biggest and most belligerent moments. If you’re not stirred by the towering title track or Cyberwaste’s incendiary assault you may need to get your ears rewired.
Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus
The extreme metal St Anger, or dare we say Lulu, the return of David Vincent to the head of death metal’s premiere band for the first time in 17 years contained hulking slabs of vintage Morbid Angel. However, it was the techno and industrial-afflicted Radikult, Too Extreme and Destructos Vs The World/Attack that had die hards, including Adolf Hitler no less, crying out in disgust. Whether, like Hammer, you think the album is a brave, blistering work from the death metal pioneers or a clanger of monstrous proportions, it’s a unique experience that’s well worth another try.